A former Khmer Rouge messenger told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday of the paranoia and fear that drove cadres to turn against each other during a series of internal purges.
Witness 2-TCW-1005, whose name was kept confidential by the court, testified that he joined the communist revolution in 1973 at the age of 15, after a demonstration led by his school teachers in which he participated was met with a violent response.
“Later on, they were shot dead. In light of the experience I had when I was at school, I decided to join the revolution to fight against Lon Nol,” the witness said. But the party he joined – which implicated “traitors” through self-criticism sessions – fostered a climate of suspicion.
Revolutionary Flags – propaganda magazines – were read at party meetings and dictated: “We must take absolute measures in [a] zero tolerance manner and without hesitation” to “eliminate enemies burrowing within”.
“Everybody was afraid of everybody else, and we did not trust one another,” the witness said. “I sacrificed myself to the party, and I would not protest any assignment by the party.”
When referring to the party’s stance that such enemies should be “swept clean”, the witness agreed with the prosecution’s assertion that this was a code for “killing”. “When a person was swept clean, it means they have to be gone,” he said.
The witness’s testimony forms part of the trial segment on internal purges and security centres in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, which resumed today after a three-week break.
He said that while comrades were tasked with unravelling links to international spy agencies, meetings made no mention of “the hunger suffered by the people”.
His father – despite good connections with Son Sen, a member of the Khmer Rouge inner circle – was said to have been arrested, but it was only after the regime that the witness learned of the notorious S-21 prison, today the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
His cousin, he said, was a close confidant of Ta Mok – one of the Khmer Rouge senior leaders known as “the butcher” – who led the Southwest Zone.
The witness also named defendants in upcoming cases 003 and 004/01 – Meas Muth and Im Chaem – during his testimony.
He said Muth was chief of Sector 13 – where the witness was initially stationed – until 1975, when he allegedly became a naval commander. Ta Mok moved trustworthy cadre like Im Chaem to different zones to replace purged zone leaders, he added.